I completed a BSc in Biochemistry (Pharmacology) 1st class in 2004 and a PhD in Molecular Toxicology with Dr Nick Plant in 2008 both at the University of Surrey. I then undertook post-doctoral research in tumour T cell immunology with Dr Ed James and Professor Tim Elliott at the University of Southampton. In 2011, I worked for a communications agency called Alto Marketing as a science writer, before starting at the University of Westminster as Lecturer in biochemical toxicology.
It was at Westminster that I was given the opportunity to explore my love of teaching. I completed a PGCert in Higher Education in 2013 which introduced a range of teaching and learning styles to try.
In 2015, I started back at the University of Surrey as a Teaching Fellow, which allows me to focus entirely on interacting with students and helping them to realise their potential.
University roles and responsibilities
- Programme Leader for MSci (Hons) Biochemistry
In the media
- Molecular biology
- Immunotherapy and tumour immunology
- Nuclear receptor biology
- Biological effects of plant derived compounds
Paracetamol is an effective analgesic but its mechanism of action is unclear. We investigated the effect of paracetamol and the analgesic adjuvant caffeine on the activity of NO synthase in mouse spinal cord and cerebellar slices in vitro, by measuring the conversion of [3H]arginine to [3H]citrulline. Paracetamol (100 μM) had no effect on NO synthase activity in cerebellum, but in the spinal cord both paracetamol (100 μM) and caffeine (30 μM) attenuated glutamate (5 mM)-induced [3H]citrulline production and in combination they abolished it. In conclusion paracetamol inhibits spinal cord NO synthesis and this may be related to its analgesic effects.
When developing meaningful curricula, institutions must engage with the desired disciplinary attributes of their graduates. Successfully employed in several areas, including psychology and chemistry, disciplinary literacies provide structure for the development of core competencies‐pursuing progressive education. To this end, we have sought to develop a comprehensive blueprint of a graduate biochemist, providing detailed insight into the development of skills in the context of disciplinary knowledge. The Biochemical Literacy Framework (BCLF) aspires to encourage innovative course design in both the biochemical field and beyond through stimulating discussion among individuals developing undergraduate biochemistry degree courses based on pedagogical best practice. Here, we examine the concept of biochemical literacy aiming to start answering the question: What must individuals do and know to approach and transform ideas in the context of the biochemical sciences? The BCLF began with the guidance published by relevant learned societies – including the Royal Society of Biology, the Biochemical Society, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Quality Assurance Agency, before considering relevant pedagogical literature. We propose that biochemical literacy is comprised of seven key skills: critical thinking, self‐management, communication, information literacy, visual literacy, practical skills and content knowledge. Together, these form a dynamic, highly interconnected and interrelated meta‐literacy supporting the use of evidence‐based, robust learning techniques. The BCLF is intended to form the foundation for discussion between colleagues, in addition to forming the groundwork for both pragmatic and exploratory future studies into facilitating and further defining biochemical literacy.
The nuclear receptor superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors plays a central role in the regulation of cellular responses to chemical challenge. Nuclear receptors are activated by a wide range of both endogenous and exogenous chemicals, and their target genes include those involved in the metabolism and transport of the activating chemical. Such target gene activation, thus, acts to remove the stimulating xenobiotic or to maintain homeostatic levels of endogenous chemicals. Given the dual nature of this system it is important to understand how these two roles are balanced, such that xenobiotics are efficiently removed while not impacting negatively on homeostasis of endogenous chemicals. Using DNA microarray technology we have examined the transcriptome response of primary rat hepatocytes to two nuclear receptor ligands: Pregnenalone-16α-carbonitrile (PCN), a xenobiotic PXR agonist, and lithocholic acid, an endogenous mixed PXR/VDR/FXR agonist. We demonstrate that despite differences in the profile of activated nuclear receptors, transcriptome responses for these two ligands are broadly similar at lower concentrations, indicating a conserved general response. However, as concentrations of stimulating ligand rises, the transcriptome responses diverge, reflecting a need for specific responses to the two stimulating chemicals. Finally, we demonstrate a novel feed-back loop for PXR, whereby ligand-activation of PXR suppresses transcription of the PXR gene, acting to attenuate PXR protein expression levels at higher ligand concentrations. Through in silico simulation we demonstrate that this feed-back loop is an important factor to prevent hyperexpression of PXR target genes such as CYP3A and confirm these findings in vitro. This novel insight into the regulation of the PXR-mediated regulatory signal networks provides a potential mechanistic rationale for the robustness in steroid homeostasis within the cell.
In this case study, we discuss a Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) level 7 module, Developing as a Biochemist: Effectively Communicating Science in Modern Society, which forms a key part in the educational development of students in the final year of an MSci in Biochemistry at the University of Surrey. In this skills-based and student-centred module, students work to develop familiarity and competency across a broad range of communications platforms. A dynamic assessment approach enabled the provision of an active peer-feedback and peer-review process. The cyclical provision of feedback and review, coupled with the application of a greater level of feedback literacy, empowered students’ development of critical employability skills. We will discuss the background to this approach, the perceived effectiveness of the peer-review and peer-feedback process, from both teacher and learner perspectives, and will provide some considerations for implementing similar interventions in practice.
Purpose Concept maps have been described as a valuable tool for exploring curriculum knowledge. However, less attention has been given to the use of them to visualise contested and tacit knowledge, i.e. the values and perceptions of teachers that underpin their practice. This paper aims to explore the use of concept mapping to uncover academics’ views and help them articulate their perspectives within the framework provided by the concepts of pedagogic frailty and resilience in a collaborative environment. Design/methodology/approach Participants were a group of five colleagues within a Biochemical Science Department, working on the development of a new undergraduate curriculum. A qualitative single-case study was conducted to get some insights on how concept mapping might scaffold each step of the collaborative process. They answered the online questionnaire; their answers were “translated” into an initial expert-constructed concept map, which was offered as a starting point to articulate their views during a group session, resulting in a consensus map. Findings Engaging with the questionnaire was useful for providing the participants with an example of an “excellent” map, sensitising them to the core concepts and the possible links between them, without imposing a high level of cognitive load. This fostered dialogue of complex ideas, introducing the potential benefits of consensus maps in team-based projects. Originality/value An online questionnaire may facilitate the application of the pedagogic frailty model for academic development by scaling up the mapping process. The map-mediated facilitation of dialogue within teams of academics may facilitate faculty development by making explicit the underpinning values held by team members.